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    Street Advertising Experiment (Increasing random foot traffic walk-in's with a sandwich board)

    I was walking down the street here in Austin, TX.....and noticed this little Shoe Hospital:


    Here's some pics of it:

    Shoe hospital in Austin downtown

    Shoe hospital in Austin downtown

    I live nearby.....so I've walked by this place probably 500+ times......and the only thing I've ever noticed about it was this dinky sandwich-board sign:

    Shoe hospital sandwich board sign

    All it says is "SATURDAY SPECIAL! 1/2 price heels no limit!"

    I have no idea what that means.

    So I got to thinking.......

    "How can I make this Shoe Hospital street sign get more random people in their doors?"

    One of my favorite copywriting exercises is to "mentally re-write advertising" I see in the real world.

    So my first step was to analyze what was wrong with the street advertising this shoe hospital was already doing:

    "What is wrong with this advertising?"

    This is what's going through my head when I see the shoe hospital's advertising:

    Shoe hospital wrong advertising

    1.) I have NO CLUE what the hell a shoe hospital does!

    The guy who runs the place told me, "We're a shoe hospital....we fix shoes!"   ....but I'm just Joe Schmo who's walking by this place, I don't know what the hell a shoe hospital does!

    2.) They mention they "repair shoes" which means NOTHING to me.

    You have to show me some real examples of shoes that got fixed!

    3.) Tell me "1/2 price heels"....but I dunno what the service is!

    This shoe hospital desperately needs to SHOW me the service they do.

    One of the biggest sources of retail traffic is random walk-in's.

    So having bad signage is a serious problem if you are a brick & mortar business.....because you're losing a percentage of ALL the people that walk by!  That's free customers you're losing!

    A random dude walking in may spend $50 on his 1st visit.  BUT that doesn't end his relationship with you.  He will come in time-and-time again.  His LTV (Lifetime Value) might be in the thousands.

    In the short amount of times I've visited this shoe hospital, I saw purchases from $50 to $200+ from ONE VISIT.  I was blown away, I had no idea what this place does, yet there were people dropping hundreds of dollars per visit.

    The owner of the shop said he gets on average 8 - 10 random walk-in's per day.  

    Let's make this a conservative estimate, and say only 8 random walk-in's come through per day.

    With this estimate, let's figure out what this Austin Shoe Hospital location is missing out on:

    Let's do some quick & dirty math:

    8 walk-in's per day.

    300 days per year open for business.


    8 x 300 = 2,400 walk-in customers.


    Now.....through re-doing this sign, let's say we increase the amount of walk-in's to 15 per day.

    15 walk-in's per day.

    300 days per year open for business.


    15 x 300 = 4,500!

    Holy shit....that's 2,100 extra customers per YEAR just because we improved the damn street sign from 8/day to 15/day!!!!

    Now let's see what those 2,100 new people will be worth at different average purchase prices:

    • Average purchase is $35....at 2,100 customers = $73,500/year

    • Average purchase is $50....at 2,100 customers = $105,000/year
    • Average purchase is $65....at 2,100 customers = $136,500/year
    • Average purchase is $80....at 2,100 customers = $168,000/year
    • Average purchase is $100....at 2,100 customers = $210,000/year

    This doesn't take into account repeat business!

    Out of respect for the Austin Shoe Hospital, I will not publish that sensitive info.....but you can easily extrapolate that simply making a better sign can make an extra tidy profit!  Giggity.

    I asked my friend Jude who runs DowntownAustinBlog, to do a quick analysis of this shoe hospital at 8th & Congress here in Austin, TX.

    The foot-traffic estimates are based off some old 2010 data that was collected, and during a regular workday this shoe hospital is estimate to have 700 - 1,000 walk-by's per 8-hour workday.

    That would mean their current signage is converting at around 1% of walk-by traffic (remember, they get about 8 walk-in's per day with the existing signage).

    So I would like to get the Austin Shoe Hospital from about 8 walk-in's per day.....to 15 walk-in's per day.

    "How can we get from 8 per day...

    ...to 15 per day?"

    Street advertising change to sign

    Well my first thought was to change that damn sandwich board sign!!!

    The primary psychological things I wanted to happen were:

    1.) People on the street would intensely look at the board and process it. 

    2.) There should be a call to action on at least ONE side .....telling the person to come inside the store. 

    3.) I wanted to clearly explain what the shoe hospital can do for YOU.....with simple images.

    This was easy enough because the Downtown Austin Shoe Hospital website had plenty of before & after shoe pics like this:

    Austin shoe hospital website

    All I had to do now was steal some of their before/after pictures and mock them up in Photoshop.

    Fortunately I'm a guy with WAY too much time on his hands, so I know Photoshop reasonably well (mainly for making dumb stuff like this):


    .....anyhow, I took a bunch of the images from the shoe hospital website and made two mockups.

    Neither of them were exceptionally clever, and honestly I didn't care.  So long as people looked at the BEFORE/AFTER pics and think in their head, "Oh....maybe I can bring in my old pair or shoes and make them awesome again!"

    That's all I wanted from these boards:


    Sandwich Board Mockup #1

    Shoe hospital sandwich board 1


    Sandwich Board Mockup #2

    Shoe hospital sandwich board 2

    Notice how Mockup #2 says, "Ask inside what we can do!"

    That was done on purpose to give people an excuse to go inside and say, "Hey what do ya'll do??"

    .....it also helps the owner track how many people are coming in through the sign.


    Getting the sandwich boards made:

    The next step was to actually make the damn things.  A standard sized sandwich board is 24" X 36" ....and I found out at the local FedEx/Kinko's they do these for about $60 per sign (plus tax).

    So turned my Photoshop files into regular .jpg files and submitted both designs to Kinko's.

    In about 6 hours I got back a giant flat box (people on the street thought I was holding a giant rectangular pizza!) and the signs were ready:


    The signs in all their glory.  $156 after tax for both:


    You can see for scale how big these are:


    Photoshop File to Real Life in 6 hours!


    Proud of my work:


    Delivering the boards to the Austin Shoe Hospital:


    Prepping the sandwich board sign holder:


    Affixed to the stand:


    One last goodbye before my baby goes out into the working world:


    See any changes from afar?


    The new sign working hard to bring in new walk-in's!


    Telling people to come inside:


    Now people can SEE what the Shoe Hospital can do for them!


    We could see people constantly glancing at the sign.  That didn't used to happen:


    Hopefully 2x the amount of people come in because of this sign.  The goal is 15 walk-in's per day:


    My theory is these signs will starting working immediately on a small scale (already a small uptick in walk-in's the very first day).

    But the real value is when all the people that normally walk by this location walk by SEVERAL times.  I'd say this will take between 7 and 21 days.


    Crazy how just a small change like this can improve a business.

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    P.S. I want you to comment on either A or B:

    A.) How many walk-in's you think these signs will bring in per day (current is 8 per day).


    B.) How we could re-do these signs to bring in more walk-in's.  Lemme know!! I might actually be making more of these signs for this experiment...

    UPDATE: This experiment results in literally an overnight 50% increase in new-customer walk-in traffic!

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Guest Tim Gary


    Going biggerish.. answering both

    A) 19

    B) Have something about "saving" their favorite pair(s) of shoes. I know it's largely implied by the before/after, but adding something to this effect could fire extra brain cells that have them thinking about specific pairs of shoes to do this with. Add-on, not replacement for before/after.

    Link to comment

    1) Smth around 25.

    2) We can add 2 or 4 A4 folders made from plexiglass or some other plastic, and change pictures of before/after say every week, exhibiting fresh works ;) so it will always grab notice even of those people who've already seen the sign for a few times. They can be glued to the sign so they'll cover roughly 1/2 of it, and the rest will be yours "we do miracle with old shoes" or smth alike ;)

    Link to comment
    B.) Drop the FREE bomb! "Free estimates" (even though the company likely already does that...) would change the game for sure.
    Link to comment

    I'm in platonic like with these experiments. Power washing story was great!

    A) Rough guess: 13

    B) I would think how much more value can the owner do for the by walkers. It could be something in the way:

    "Nick (owner) can show you have to polish your shoe to mirror the moonlight in 2 minutes"

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    Guest Daniel Gillen


    Hey Nev,

    I really enjoyed this post. I think one of the biggest takeaways here is just how important images can be. And I love the "before and after" concept you've got going on here.

    My suggestion would be to get to take over the other sign that's still there, use the same approach and copy but have one sign with women's shoe examples on it and one sign with men's shoes on it.

    That way you will grab the attention of men and women much more rather than mixing the two on one sign.

    Keep rocking it!


    Link to comment
    Guest Gareth Jones


    B) I'd suggest a direct benefit approach, perhaps referencing financials. Why pay XXX for new shoes when your old ones can be as good as the day they were born for XX. (I don't know how much shoe repair costs, but it's an idea, LOL!)

    So it takes the "finally telling people what we do" concept, and adds on a direct benefit of the business.

    Would take some more designing to fit in properly, though... and perhaps not worth making TOO many signs based on suggestions...

    Or you'll end up with a total misery of a split-test going on! :D

    How surprised was the business owner when you rocked on up there and said "I wanna make your sign better"?

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    Guest Martin Simo


    A) i'm gonna go with conservative 12

    B) i think the sign can be improved by showing before/after pics of whole shoes, rather then emphasising the bottom. How often do people look at the bottom of their shoes? Maybe some of mine look just like those before pics, but I simply don't know. I mostly care about how they look on my feet. So maybe put in more pictures like the pink high heel and the dyed boots.

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    A) 16, I reckon you will double your traffic for sure. But still, it's such a service that I personally would only go there if I knew a.) I had shoes to fix and b.) I could google it and it was the closest, best, cheapest, in my local area.

    B) Maybe offer a quick, easy, and cheap shoe shine service for people on a lunch break, before or after work, or for a special occasion. A quick shoe shine hustle is something I would definitely just "walk in" for if I saw it on a sign.

    Link to comment
    Guest Dustin Overbeck


    I'm going to guess that it will improve traffic by 100% for the short-term, (therefore 16+ total walk-ins per day), and then level off to a 25% increase once the walk-by traffic gets used to seeing the sign after the next couple of months. (12 total walk-ins).

    In any case, I think there is huge value in this type of marketing and advertising. It's a low-cost way to improve "conversions". The saying "small hinges swing big doors" is a perfect example of what you're doing here.

    I hope to get updates to this marketing experiment of yours. It would be cool to see you do other similar case studies of more businesses in the local area.

    Link to comment

    A) My guess would be fewer than 15 but more than 8 as I imagine the shop has been there for years. I'd be surprised if mist people are already aware of it and what it does but just don't need shoes repairing that often, thus the random walk ins.

    Anyway, I hope you prove me wrong, I'd love to see 15+ going in off the back of the sign.

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    Guest Zac Alsop


    1.) 29

    2.) WHAT ARE THOOOSEEE?! In Bold big writing at the top... Grabs attention, uses popular internet video, laughs all round, those shoe hospital guys are funny. Im'a give them my money.

    Link to comment
    Guest Joseph Irons


    17 new walk ins daily.

    A call to action special for the first time visitor. 1/2 price on your first service with us, come in and see what we can do for you now

    Link to comment
    Guest Dominik Harman


    A) 13

    B) ouch, Gareth was faster. I'd definitely add a direct benefit sign. I'd cut off some of those and only let, say, first two examples there and add smth like "dont let your shoes die(they call themselves hospital so lets stick to the story), save up to XXX $!"

    Or even better - let your shoes live and save up to XXX$

    3rd option - "long live your shoes! Save up to XXX$


    I'd also try to hand out flyers like 300ft down the road to see what happens, or another sign (I guess bilion flyers are kinda costly)

    Link to comment

    Hi Nev,

    A. 17

    B. I might have added an additional image with some "Nike Air" sort of shoe to also try to attract younger.

    BTW, this is a really great real life example ! When I read the first part of your article 2 days ago I though I would not stop to this shop for sure. Then when I saw the sign you made, I figured out this was because I did not understand what they could do for me, which is much clearer now. Well done. Guy, there are lots of street businesses that would deserve you walk by and help them figuring out what they can improve. Great new "KopyStreet" business ? :)

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    Will probably double the walk-ins, honestly.

    They could throw a big old USP out there.

    How they differ from the crowd or....

    "Don't go spend all that money on new shoes ... We make your shoes look way better for a fraction of the money"

    You get the idea.

    Also, this is kind of quirky but they should put a pile of old shoes out with a tombstone. Kind of a shoe graveyard. The tombstone could read: we coulda been saved but no one took us to the hospital. Or something clever like that.

    Just to get more eyeballz on the store.

    Great post! Look forward to the updates!

    Link to comment

    a) Assuming 800 walk-by's per day, I estimate the conversion rate to increase from the current 1% to 5%. So that means 40 walk-in's per day with the new sign.

    b) I see 2 possible angles:

    1. Sell itself on a fast turnaround for the office crowd. For example, "Get your broken shoes fixed within your 30-minute lunch break, or your money back"

    2. Position itself as a high end luxury shoe maintenance. For example, "Give your Jimmy Choo's some regular TLC to make them look brand new. Shoe spa for heels. Inquire inside.

    Link to comment
    Guest Bill Buchanan


    A) 32 (4x) going from no good copy to great copy will always works miracles

    B) add a money back guarantee --"Love it or your money back"

    Link to comment
    Guest Aki Merced


    B) Put something like: We'll revive your dead shoes.

    I'm sure people can relate to "dead shoes" haha I know I have some.

    Link to comment
    Guest Austin Miller


    Very cool.

    B) To attract those people that walk by once or twice every day, a different sign for each day of the week, each targeting a different audience. That way it showcases variety yet also hits a specific audience at least once a week. Ex. for mothers, a before and after of a her child's shoes, and some punchy copy about preserving memories; or for the athlete, lucky sneakers

    Link to comment

    A- I think it will take awhile to increase traffic, as most people chuck dead shoes, or if they have them, repeatedly forget to bring them with them (that's assuming it is mostly work foot traffic). So I'll pick 12.

    B- having had work done on shoes before, a "repairs starting from $X" would be important to me. I've had quotes for work before that have been equal to the cost of the shoes, so not really worth it to me if I didn't love them. Someone else mentioned "save your fav pair of shoes" and that has massive appeal, I would think to many people, not just me.

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    Guest Ivy Green-Timmermans


    44 per day.

    WOW, marvelous boards Neville! :))

    And the guy didn't know anything about your fab initiative?

    I take my hat off to you! :)



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    For sure traffic will double - but why stop there?

    Take a page from the great Les Schwab

    (his book "Pride in Perfection is GREAT) and advertise

    we fix all heels (flats) for FREE. The unreal benefits and payback

    are outlined in the book and seen every day at any Les Schwab

    tire store. ALSO - ADD "All work guaranteed"

    Link to comment

    Loved the post!

    A. I am thinking that their walk in traffic will at least double to 16 per day!

    B. Why not have a before shoe and after shoe mounted on top of the sidewalk sign, (with poles maybe?). I think people can get grossed out by old shoes and just not want to deal with them, but if they see a crappy shoe before and then the fixed up shoe right there next to it in real life they may be inspired to deal with that pair of shoes they've been hiding in their closet, and actually walk in and become a new customer!

    You could also do a Halloween themed sign about "Resurrecting the Dead" with the before (Tombstones) and after photos.

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    How about pictures of the other types of repairs they do such as, luggage, gloves, zippers or even roller or ice skates if they repair the body of those as well.

    This way they can more easily attract a much wider scope of customers and maybe even capture the local workers.

    Example being that maybe a passerby doesn't care to repair shoes but the baseball glove or a skate can be much more appealing and appreciated. I think many people would prefer to repair a type of equipment over a shoe unless the shoe is special.

    I think this would really work and would even bet on it.

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